Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge Opens
The world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge opened last week at the Dolní Morava Mountain Resort in the Czech Republic. Sky Bridge 721 runs 721 meters (2,365 feet) and hangs up to 95 meters above the valley below the two mountain ridges it connects in the Kralicky Sneznik mountain range.
Construction reportedly took two years to complete and about 200 million Czech crowns ($8.4 million). The bridge surpassed the record for the longest bridge of this kind in Arouca, Portugal, at 516 meters long, which opened in 2021.
“Sky Bridge 721 will give its visitors a feeling that cannot be experienced anywhere else,” wrote Czech Tourism. “Visitors will need to pluck up courage to set foot on the bridge, as they will find themselves 95 meters above the ground at the highest point.”
According to the resort, the footbridge features six main supporting ropes with 60 wind ropes of various diameters, with the tractive force of each of the six main ropes equaling 360 tons. The walkway itself has a 1.2-meter width.
Visitors will enter the bridge at an elevation of 1,125 meters and exit it 10 meters higher, from the Slamnka Chalet near the Skywalk to the side of Chlum Hill. Czech Tourism notes that it will also provide a unique look at the surrounding nature.
The Associated Press reports that up to 500 people will be allowed on the bridge at a time, however that number will be halved for the first two weeks following its opening. The bridge will also be closed for safety reasons if winds reach 135 kph (84 mph).
Additionally, Sky Bridge 721 leads to an educational trail titled “The Bridge of Time,” which offers visitors educational panels and a connected interactive game to transport them through 1938 and 2021 in the Czech Republic’s history.
The bridge, however, has been met with mixed reviews. Czech officials hope that it will boost tourism in the area by giving a different look at the landscape, while critics reportedly say that the bridge is too big for the surrounding environment and that it will attract too many tourists to the small town, which has a population of less than 500.
Previous Longest Bridge
Last year, the Institute for Research and Technological Development for Construction, Energy, Environment and Sustainability completed a pedestrian suspension bridge in Portugal, at the time breaking the record for the world’s longest. The 516 Arouca officially opened to the public at the end of April.
Nearly a third of a mile long, the record-breaking suspension bridge connects two hills with granite cliff faces in Arouca Geopark, located in Arouca, Portugal. In total, the structure—also known as 516 Arouca for its 516 meters in length—measures an equivalent of 1,693 feet long and hangs 570 feet high over the Paiva river.
“A remarkable work of national engineering and will certainly be one of the most iconic structures in the municipality of Arouca and in the country and that will surely become a landmark of modernity,” said Arouca's mayor Margarida Belém.
Meant to serve as a tourist attraction in the area, the structure sits nearby the Paiva Walkways, an eight-kilometer-long trail that winds through the Arouca hills.
“Going through it will certainly be a remarkable and memorable experience,” Belém said at the time. “For those who have already done the Walkways, the bridge will be an excellent reason to return. Those who have not yet had the opportunity to travel, now have an additional reason to do so.”
In addition to the walkways, however, the area is well-known for its white-water rafting, geological characteristics and historical sites such as the Neolithic graves and Roman and medieval ruins. The area is also home to the Monastery of Arouca, which served as a religious center for nuns, and sometimes monks, between the 10th and 19th centuries.
According to a release on the bridge’s website, the structure launched construction in May 2018 and was inspired by the Inca bridges that spanned the Andes mountain valleys. The mostly metal structure is supported by two V-shaped concrete towers and is comprised of 127 interlocking metal-gridded decks and metal grid side railings, giving crossers an unobstructed view of the mountains and river gorge.
Built with a price tag of $2.8 million, the bridge was designed by Portuguese studio Itecons and constructed by a company called Conduril in a process that spanned several years. Funding for the structure was co-financed by the PROVERE program, from the European Regional Development Fund North 2020.
Before the structure opened to the public, few lucky—and brave—locals were invited to cross the structure first. Among them, and the first to cross, Hugo Xavier, reported the crossing as being “extraordinary, a unique experience, an adrenaline rush.” Adding that he was slightly afraid, but that the trip was worth it.
The bridge officially beat out Switzerland's 1,621-foot-long Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge as the world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge. In contrast, the longest such structure in the U.S. is the Gatlinburg SkyBridge in Tennessee, which stretches a more modest 680 feet across a valley in the Great Smoky Mountains and has a transparent glass floor at its highest point.
In May 2019, the longest suspension pedestrian bridge in the U.S., located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, opened, running 680 feet across a valley in the Great Smoky Mountains. The ground falls away 140 feet below, roughly around the structure’s midpoint.
What has been dubbed the SkyBridge, which belongs to Skylift Park, was designed and installed by ERi (Dayton, Ohio) for Boyne USA (Boyne Falls, Michigan).
According to CNN, the span features glass panels along the center of the walkway to allow visitors to see the ground beneath them. Skylift Park also features a chairlift that takes passengers up 500 feet, from Gatlinburg to the top of Crockett Mountain. Once the bridge opened, visitors were be able to take the chairlift up to the bridge, enjoying the view. Plans also include an observation area and snack shop, as well as a bar and gift shop.
ERi selected Hayward Baker Inc. for the design and installation of the bridge’s micropiles. The resulting micropile resists compressive, uplift/tension and lateral loads, and meets the testing requirements of ASTM D 1143 (compressive), ASTM D 3689 (uplift/tension) and ASTM D 3966 (lateral).
Once the micropiles were installed, focus shifted to preparing the foundations for concrete. The subsurface assembly of each side consists of two bases, 44 threaded rods and other hardware. Threaded rod placement was imperative, as “the top of each assembly would also have a template to help ensure that everything was held perfectly in place while the concrete cured,” notes ERi. The steel rods are 2 inches in diameter, each weighing roughly 50 pounds.
The concrete forms for the abutments, installed by general contractor Mike Walston, of MCW Construction, were made from lumber, and heavily reinforced. According to ERi, with everything accounted for, the bridge weighs more than 1 million pounds.
Though the developer behind the SkyBridge claims that this is the longest suspension pedestrian bridge in North America, that title can arguably go to the pedestrian suspension bridge at Kelowna Mountain, in Canada, which the park claims runs over 800 feet long.
In November last year, construction for world’s longest timber-towered suspension bridge has reportedly begun at Boyne Mountain Resort in Michigan. The SkyBridge Michigan is part of the resort’s Renaissance 2.0 upgrades and was designed by Experiential Resources’ (ERi) Todd Domeck.
According to the resort, guests will be able to ride one of several chair lifts to the mountain top, then walk along the 1,203-foot long and 118-foot high pedestrian bridge. The SkyBridge will extend from the peak of McLouth, go over Ramshead and reach to the summit of Disciples Ridge, connecting to a paved restort trail system.
The pedestrian footbridge was modeled after the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, located at the resort’s sister property, Gatlinburg SkyLift Park in Tennessee. The timber-frame design is “a nod to the logging heritage of northern Michigan” with lumber sourced from Matelski Lumber in Boyne Falls. The main cable will be galvanized steel and the walking surface will be steel framing with pultruded grating deck.
The SkyBridge is scheduled to open later this year.